People Living Near Toxic Waste Sites are Exposed to Many Chemicals

    21 May, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

    Millions of people in developing countries living near toxic waste dumps. A new study looked at the dangers of living near these chemical waste sites. An environmental organization in New York studied water and soil samples from 373 waste sites, these were in three countries - India, Pakistan and Indonesia. The researchers found that more than 8.6 million people were living near the sites in 2010, and were exposed to many chemicals.

    Richard Fuller was an author of the study.

    "Lead, chromium,  mercury, phosphates, different kinds of organic chemicals, pesticides and the like. They're all over the world, unfortunately."

    Mr. Fuller heads the Blacksmith Institute, which paid for the study. The institute works to solve pollution problems in low- and moderate-income countries.

    The study says people living near the dumps lost more than 828-thousand years of healthy life from toxic waste exposure. The researchers based this finding, an estimates of illness, disability and early death. By comparison, they say malaria caused less illness and early death in the same three countries. Air pollution, they say caused a little more.

    The study found that lead created the highest pollution levels, this metal if absorbed into the blood, can harm the brain development of unborn babies, and lower the intelligence of children.

    Two-thirds of those exposed to lead near waste dumps in Pakistan, India and Indonesia were children and women of child-bearing age.

    Kevin Chatham-Stephens was the lead author of the study, he is a pediatric environmental health expert at the Mount Sinai school of medicine in New York. He says people living near toxic waste sites can take simple steps to reduce their risk.

    "Even though it may not sound like a lot, washing your hands is one of the most effective ways that we can decrease our exposure to chemical pollutants - just because we know that oftentimes chemicals such as lead can end up in the dust and if we have that dust on our hands, and then we eat our foods and we wipe our mouths or something like that, then that chemical can enter into our body."

    The Blacksmith Institute is studying toxic waste sites in 70 other developing countries, it hopes to help organize clean-up efforts. Richard Fuller says cleaning-up is a slow process, but the countries he's working with have been eager to cooperate.

    "Everyone here has the right heart and [is] keen to do the best that they can. So, we think it's possible. It's just going to take a lot of work."

    And that's the Health Report from VOA Learning English, I'm June Simms.